Bozell Column: Tom Brokaw vs. Talk Radio

In the musty but hallowed halls of the Old Media, the first item for target practice is often the New Media, the ones formed and made popular by the atrocious biases of their predecessors. The Old Media continue watching their numbers bleed away; continue to paint themselves as fair and balanced, despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary; and continue to smear the New Media, especially talk radio, as the divisive haters and fact-manglers ruining civil discourse in America.

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw is on the publicity tour for his new book "Boom!" about the 1960s. On the November 26 Laura Ingraham show, when he was challenged with his soundbite broadsiding talk radio as "instantly jingoistic and savagely critical" of war protesters, Brokaw quickly put his anti-radio rant back into rotation.

He suggested incivility was a "big cancer" on America, and talk radio is the number one tumor. Front and center in Brokaw’s pathology was Limbaugh: "My problem with the whole spectrum is there is not -- you know what Rush’s, what his whole drill is. He doesn’t want to hear another point of view. Except his."

This is beyond dumb. It’s like conservatives claiming that "the whole drill" about Tom Brokaw is he never allowed a female reporter on his newscast. It’s such a heaping pile of wrong that it serves only to discredit the critic as someone who is truly ignorant. Limbaugh regularly engages liberal callers -- always politely when they are polite, and usually politely when they aren’t -- and often at some length. If Brokaw had ever craned his pompous ears to listen to the show before proclaiming a verdict, he’d find....civil discourse.

Ingraham was quick to disagree strongly (but politely) with Brokaw’s ignorance. Still, he pressed on. "The problem with talk radio is they only want to hear one note," he insisted. "The problem with talk radio is they mock anyone else’s point of view, and they do it often in a mindless fashion." Which explains why Limbaugh enjoys the largest radio audience in history, millions upon millions of mindless people strong.

Old anchors like Brokaw think it’s horrific that someone would get their "news" from Limbaugh and skip the Brokaws altogether. But Brokaw is no better than his nightmare, since he thinks that he can completely ignore talk radio (except when he’s listening to himself talk) and yet consider himself an expert on it.

Brokaw would like the public to think he objects to the "whole spectrum" of talk radio, but that’s not true. On April 14, 2003, five days after the Saddam Hussein statue came down in Baghdad, Brokaw attacked conservative talk radio: "America's original patriots were protesters, but in today's superheated media climate, that's a distinction often lost on the airwaves, especially on radio."

The story that followed by Anne Thompson hailed taxpayer-subsidized Pacifica Radio on the radical left: "But one network has stayed the same and is benefiting from its anti-war message...Pacifica Radio is dedicated to peace. Listener-supported, it completed its most successful fundraising drive ever just before the war started." Thompson concluded the story: "Radio, defining patriotism in different ways for different listeners."

Pacifica Radio’s definition of peace is retreat and surrender. Its idea of patriotism is a national assault on all things America. Its daily bread is rabid anti-American speeches by Noam Chomsky and Ramsey Clark, one of Saddam Hussein’s defense lawyers.

When Bush-trashing Air America radio debuted on a mere six stations on March 31, 2004 – talk about a non-story, unless you’re trying to help out a fellow liberal – Brokaw was there to give it a boost. "And a talkative band of liberals helps to give Kerry a boost this fall on their new radio network, their answer to conservative talk radio, which, of course, dominates the air waves," insisted Brokaw. "As NBC's Carl Quintanilla reports, it's a modest enterprise but with a big ambition." The story then showed Al Franken fighting with Bill O’Reilly. Brokaw didn’t lament Franken, author of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot," ruining our civil discourse.

If Brokaw didn’t sound ridiculous enough, just guess who he mentally appoints as America’s guardians of civility, the civil and substantive people who will lead America out of vicious attack politics? "The president and Mrs. Clinton have both said to me that they believe that this election will not be about ideological food fights, but about solutions. That’s where the country is right now."

So apparently Brokaw has never listened to talk radio – and he’s never heard the Clintons waging an ideological food fight against the vast right-wing conspiracy, either. How clueless can an Old Media star be?

And if conservative talk radio is so malignant, then why was Brokaw a guest on Laura Ingraham’s malignant radio show?

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center